Nurturing Your Creative Side For Professional Success

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There’s a scene in Men In Black 3 where Agents K and J don’t know what to do next. The fate of the entire planet is in their hands and they’re at a loss. Young Agent K (played by Josh Brolin) says, “We need some pie.” Agent J (played by Will Smith) cannot fathom the logic of stopping what they’re doing to have some pie, but at the diner, while talking about something completely unrelated, the answer suddenly comes to him.

Why?

Because he stepped away from the situation and gained a new perspective.

There’s a hidden lesson in this for us: learn to detach from the daily pursuit of productivity, profits, client engagement, sales and marketing, and the answers you seek will come much more easily. One way to do that is to learn a creative skill, such as sculpting, painting, knitting or, best of all, drawing.

When I tell people teach drawing, the most common response I get is, “Oh that’s great; I can’t draw”. My response: “Can you hold a pencil in your fingers? Then you can draw.”

What they’re really saying is, “I don’t feel confident in my ability to draw, so I don’t even try.” Whether your drawing is good or not is completely irrelevent. It’s beside the point. Engaging in a creative pursuit calms your mind and lets your spirit know you’re listening. Regularly recharging through a creative endeavor is a healthy practice that pays off professionally: reduced burnout, better problem solving, and a higher quality of life. n.

How do you nurture and develop your creative spirit? Here are some suggestions:

  • Read. Often. Read graphic novels, books, magazine articles and web comics. Reading broadens your horizons, opens your mind, and helps you develop a better artistic mindset. Besides, it’s fun.
  • Get a library card. Libraries are awesome sources for books and graphic novels. Libraries have reading programs, free music, magaznes, and librarians are always ready to make recommendations about new books to try. There is a wealth of inspiration waiting for you; all you have to do is use it.
  • Put down the smartphone and daydream. Your smartphone, and the constant stimulation it provides, is damaging your creativity, and literally changing how your brain works. People are so addicted to their smartphones that they can’t go five minutes without checking it if they have nothing to do. Sit in a quiet place on a regular basis, let your mind off its leash and daydream. You might be surprised where your mind takes you. Daydreaming is healthy and a way to let your spirit know you’re listening. Go to the park and take a long walk. Sit in your back yard and listen to crickets. Go to the beach and watch the sunset (I can’t TELL you how many times I’ve seen people walking on the beach while chatting on the phone, completely oblivious to the spectacular sunset happening right in front of them). Unplug on a regular basis, people. Your creative spirit is trying to talk to you, and you need to listen to what it’s telling you.
  • Be patient with yourself. Any time you try a new technique, or try to learn a new skill, you are not going to be very good at it. This is not only okay, it’s part of the learning process. No one becomes an expert as soon as try try something new, and neither will you. So relax, be patient and enjoy the process of learning how to express yourself.
  • Learn to see the world. Instead of being so focused on your destination, learn to notice things that most people miss, because they’re so busy with their schedules, deadlines, problems and obligations. Live in the moment, and notice how the light falls on the corner of that building, or how the dryer vents above a laundromat look like heads talking to each other, or how that tree you pass by everyday seems to have a face in the weathered pattern of its bark. There is a whole world of sights and sounds out there. Take time to notice them.
  • Copy. And by copy I don’t mean claim someone else’s idea or work as your own. That’s called plagarism. By copy, I mean copy the work of an art piece you really like. Learn how the artist drew the lines, the curves, the shapes. Put your own spin on it and experiement with variations of what you’re copying. Trace the original and tape it into your sketch book, and compare your version with the original. Copying helps your drawing hand and the creative part of your brain to work together, and soon your hand will instinctively know what to do.
  • Acquire your own reference library. Build a collection of art books that help you improve, graphic novels whose artwork you admire, and books by artists whose work you love. Keep a folder with magazine clippings you might want to draw inspiration from. There is a collection of suggested readingHERE to get you started, books that I use in my classes and have found very useful in helping me to broaden my mind and improve my skills. Art is not created in a vacuum; always look at the work of other artists for inspiration and new ideas.
  • Use your sketchbook the right way. Your sketchbook is the single most important artistic tool you have (besides your pencils, of course). Get a good sketchbook, with good quality paper, and use it to doodle, write down good ideas that come to you, play around with ideas and try out new styles. This is your creative sand box. Be a child again and play in it. The adult in you has no place here.

As human beings, we all need to recharge, and I can tell you from experience, having taught many people how to draw, that learning to express yourself in some kind of artistic pursuit is one of the best ways to balance the demands of your career with the need to re-engage with your spirit, which will provide heightened professional success and satisfaction. And while you’re drawing you may be surprised: the answer may just come to you when you least expect it.

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